MOSCOW (Reuters)–Russia’s first military representative to NATO is promising to work hard to improve ties between Moscow and the alliance when he gets to Brussels but vowed to take a tough line with his old adversaries if needed.
Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin–named to his new post last month–also said in an interview with Wednesday’s edition of the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta that he would have 11 Russian officers when he set up shop at NATO headquarters.
"Don’t forget–Moscow is opening the doors for practical cooperation with the West for the first time," Zavarzin said.
"Now we will stand up for Russia’s interests and its security in a constructive and clear-cut way," he said. "And if necessary at times even in a tough way."
Zavarzin once worked as a peacekeeping commander in Tajikistan and his previous post was deputy head of the Moscow headquarters for military cooperation among former Soviet states.
He said he felt his work in Vienna on the region of Nagorno-Karabakh had also helped him get the NATO assignment.
Asked by the newspaper who he was selecting to staff his mission in Brussels–Zavarzin said he was mostly choosing officers with experience in international relations or disarmament.
"The main (problem) is how to finance our operation," he said.
Zavarzin’s role is set out in Russia’s accord with NATO’s 16 member states which gives Moscow a voice but not a veto in NATO affairs. The deal–signed in May–is intended to help minimize Kremlin concerns about the alliance’s eastward enlargement–although Moscow remains wary.
NATO has offered membership to the Czech Republic–Hungary and Poland – all Moscow’s former Warsaw Pact allies.
Zavarzin said one of his first tasks was preparing for an inaugural Permanent Joint Military Council meeting later this month. He said the aim of the NATO-Russia body was to "establish a higher level of trust–unified aims and the habit of consulting."